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The History of Travel Mugs & Tumblers

published: September 10, 2019
The history of travel mugs

When were travel mugs invented? Join Crestline for a history lesson that will leave you wanting to promote your own brand on a travel mug.

  • ● 10000 BCE

    • The earliest mugs date back to the prehistoric Neolithic Stone Age and were made out of bone and had no handles.
    • The oldest mugs suspected of being from this era were also made of wood, but the wooden mugs have proven to be much harder to preserve.
    • Try imprinting your logo on a mug that will stand the test of time with a wood tone variant of our popular Himalayan tumblers.
  • ● 4000-5000 BCE

    • Mugs began to be made out of clay. This made decorating the cups, and adding handles, much easier.
    • The first ceramic mugs made on potter's wheels were found in about 2000 BCE.
    • The clay used at this time made the walls of the mug too thick for a human mouth to comfortably drink from.
    • Bushel
      Bushel with Ibex Motifs
      photo credit: wikipedia
      Clay pot mugClay Pot Mug
      photo credit:
  • ● 2000 BCE

    • Thinner walls came with the development of metal work.
    • Metal mugs were made from bronze, gold, silver, or lead.
    • These were difficult to drink hot beverages from.
    • Gold cup
      Gold Cup
      photo credit: Flickr user Xuan Che
      Oxidized copper mug
      Copper Mug
      photo credit:
  • ● 206 BCE–220 CE

    • Although it is believed to have found its origin in China much earlier, wide use of high-fired porcelain to make ceramics began from 206 BCE to 220 CE.
    • More common for standard coffee mugs, porcelain is still the most used material in ceramic drinkware.
    • Porcelain and other ceramic materials have proven to be some of the best ways to make mugs for their thin walls and ability to hold hot or cold drinks.
    • 1740 China Mug
      Mug from 1740's, China
      photo credit: Jens Mohr
      Porcelain Mug with arms of Sir John Lambert
      Porcelain Mug with Arms
      photo credit: Wikipedia
  • ● 1600s-1700s CE

    • Following its discovery around 850 CE, coffee, and using mugs to drink it, became increasingly popular.
    • People began using the term "mug" to refer to these types of cups because they resembled the profiles of prisoners, i.e. mug shots.
    • The term "tumbler" first started being used for cups with round bottoms. It is unclear exactly why this is.
    • In 1746, a royal edict was enacted in Sweden to heavily tax coffee. If one failed to pay this tax, they would be fined and have their coffee paraphernalia, including mugs, confiscated. Later that year, coffee was outlawed altogether, heightening the bootleg industry for these products.
  • ● 1892-1904 CE

    • Sir James Dewar invented the "vacuum flask," or vacuum insulation technology, in 1892 to keep his Palladium at the correct temperature.
    • This technology started being used often for chemical experiments.
    • Two glassblowers from Germany discovered that the vacuum technology could be used commercially to keep drinks cold or warm. Because Dewar had never patented the vacuum flask, the two took the rights to the double wall insulated cup and renamed it "thermos" in 1904.
    • The thermos trademark became generalized many years later because the term started being used for any item possessing vacuum flask properties.
    • Dewar original vacuum flask design
      Dewar Vacuum Flask
      photo credit: Lepo Rello (Wikipedia)
      Dewar vacuum flask diagram
      Dewar Vacuum Flask Diagram
      photo credit: Wikipedia
  • ● 1945

    • The traditional "coffee mug" was designed in 1945 by the Victor Insulator Company.
    • The cups were built to military standards. They featured thick walls to ensure proper insulation and extra weight to prevent falls while being used on war ships.
    • A rougher bottom was added to prevent the cup from sliding.
    • Many people began adopting the Victor mug, and it became the standard for coffee drinkers.
    • Vintage Victor mugs
      Vintage Victor Mugs
      photo credit: Make it Old
      Victor mug bottom stamp
      Victor Mug Mark
      photo credit: Make it Old
  • ● 1980-1994 CE

    • Travel mugs became widespread due to the implementation of coffee club promotions at convenience stores which gave patrons discounts on refills when they bought a mug.
    • "Trip sips" plastic mugs became popular as they attached to one's dashboard and often showed off a logo imprint.
    • In 1983, the minivan was invented. This new type of vehicle came with built in cup holders notched into the dashboard, the kind that we have today.
    • However, it wasn't until after the 1994 Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants case that cup holder implementation became standard practice for car manufacturers.
    • Aftermarket auto cup holders
      Aftermarket Cup Holders
      photo credit: Ildar Sagdejev
      Car arm rest built-in cup holders
      Armrest Cup Holders
      photo credit: Wikipedia
  • ● Present

    • Nowadays, new and innovative mugs are being brought to market all the time. Some of these include:

For all your promotional travel mug needs, browse Crestline's wide selection of custom tumblers to find the perfect drinkware item to imprint your logo on.